Winter care for indoor cactus

snorkyllerSeptember 23, 2009

Hi everybody,

I just got 6 small cactus as a gift.

I have read that cactus must rest during winter at a temp. of about 55°F. I don't have any room to do that. I will have to let them close the more sunny window at room temp.

Will they stay healthy anyway?

We have a very long (6 months) and cold (-22°F to 14°F) winter here, with only 8hrs of day light. How will they react? Will they get enough light? Will they rest? Will their need of water drop since the temp. will not drop? (indoor)

Thank you for your advices.

Have nice day!

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Depends a bit on the construction of your windowsills. Will the cacti stand in the middle of the current of hot air from a heat radiator?

It also depends on what species you have.

If you have some space in your fridge you can try putting them there, as I have mentioned here

    Bookmark   September 23, 2009 at 12:43PM
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Except for the tropical species (epiphytes, Discocactus, Melocactus and a few cereoids from Brazil) all other healthy cactus plants will easily tolerate a long (4-5 months), cold (temps in the 30'sF), dry and dark (no light needed) dormancy period.

If they are dormant, they are not growing and do not need light.

If the temps are too warm (into the 50's+) then many species may want to come out of dormancy and hence will need strong light which is close to impossible to provide in the "North" during the cold months.

I keep hundreds of plants in my garage every year in refrigerator-like conditions and they are perfectly healthy.


    Bookmark   September 24, 2009 at 9:02PM
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Second that, I just put mine in a cold room and forget about them until spring, and never have a problem. I'd say it gets down into the upper forties in there most nights in the winter. Wish I had somewhere a little colder. No light to speak of, some indirect light from a north window, but that hardly counts to a cactus. I might give a few drops of water once a month, if I think about it. I tell myself I'm helping keep the root hairs from shriveling up entirely, but I'm pretty sure it doesn't make any difference, and they'd be just as fine wrapped up in a dry newspaper with no dirt at all.

If you don't have anywhere cold enough, I guess you'll just have to keep them totally dry and hope for the best.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2009 at 11:52PM
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interesting responses here..

In Chicago, I keep as many of my plants as possible in my Southern exposed windows, so they get light and some warmth throughout the fall/winter period, and I rarely, if ever lose a plant..I pretty much stop watering on most of the plants, except for the leafy ones, and they get water maybe once a month, but, even things like my Sauguaro, and other "hard core" desert plants, get a drink every 6-8 weeks, and, they are doing wonderfully..I keep it between 60-68 degrees in my house during this period, and generally have some sort of ceiling fan or furnace fan on, just to keep the air moving a little bit, but never right on top of any plants..
I dont ever fertilize or encourage growth through this period, but, it seems like some of the plants do actually grow a little bit..
Is this a wrong approach to take? I've been doing this with my cacti/succulents for almost 4 years now, and they seem to be fine with it..

    Bookmark   September 26, 2009 at 11:42AM
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Do you have any plants that should flower but don't? Growth can usually be stopped by reducing water to a minimum, but many cacti are picky about the temperature when it comes to bud formation.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2009 at 12:12PM
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well, actually, a couple of the smaller, barrel types actually do flower in November or December, inside the house, but, a;; I used to have a Nelli, that did flower in the winter in my kitchen window..
But no, generally, most of them do not flower while inside for the winter.

I am lucky; I have a large triple casement window in my kitchen with a southern exposure, that I put 2 large tv tables by, and can get about 20 small plants on.
Also, on that side of the house, I have a large doube patio door, and there I keep my columnar stuff, Including my massive Saguaro and also set up a couple of tables and put another 20 or so plants there; they get about 6 or 7 hours of decent sun a day there, and, even thogh they dont really "grow" while they usually look pretty healthy, and generally get a drink of water about once a month; I keep my Madagascar Palm there too, and, he drops all his leaves over the winter, but stays sort of green for the 6 or 7 months he is there. Then, I have a large area in my living room, with a northern exposure, where I will put an 8 foot cereus, and Trichocerus monster, and a few other smalller plants, that I want to just rest for the winter..
So far, this plan works really well, and the only thing I tend to lose over winter are my Lithops; I never really know what to do with them overwinter, or where to put them.. Here are some pictures from last January, inside my house..

Here is a link that might be useful: Cacti inside for Chicago winter

    Bookmark   September 26, 2009 at 6:39PM
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you asked if yours was the wrong approach to take...

The ultimate answer about whether your plants are happy and healthy is pretty easy: if your cactus and other succulents flower regularly, then chances are you are doing something right.

Many succulents will tolerate poor conditions such as low light levels and non-optimal temperature ranges, so it can be difficult to diagnose a problem. But long term (2-3+ years) most succulents will suffer.


    Bookmark   September 26, 2009 at 8:09PM
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I meant if they are supposed to flower in summer, but refuse to do so. The buds are typically formed during the winter rest, and that is where temperature comes in.

Number 018 could be a species that needs low winter temperatures. What is it? Lobivia? Acanthocalycium?

What is no. 010? Sulcorebutia? If so, it is another plant that benefits from a cold winter rest. Seems to flower well anyway ...

Very nice looking plants.

You could try to catch the cold air from the windows in some kind of box, for example by putting your TV table close to the window and attach some kind of temporary side panels to it.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2009 at 1:00AM
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Or Eriosyce for no. 018?

    Bookmark   September 27, 2009 at 1:01AM
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About the Lithops: I don't water mine from October until May-June, when the old leaves have dried up. Only one have died, but that was a tender species.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2009 at 1:51AM
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Yes, no 10 is a Sulcorebutia, and no 18 is a Lobivia!

The cacti seem to be fine over the winter, getting the winter southern sun through the windows, and water about every 5-6 weeks..and, even though all of the plants are inside in the winter, they are right next to windows, and since we only keep it between 58-68 in the house, its probably a few degrees cooler right next to the windows, so, they are sort of "cool" most of the winter..The only time I close the drapes is at night, and, during the day if temps are 10-25 below zero, to help keep it warmer in the house.
Xerophyte mentioned that the succulents will suffer 2-3 years down the road, and, to a degree, you are probably right..the tender succulents do seem to be leafing in a weird way now, although they are growing, but, it seems like the "real cactus" are handling this overwintering procedure pretty well..
One more question; at what daytime/nightime temp range, do you cold weather folks bring ALL the plants in?

It going to be 58/40 for highs and lows in Chicago for the next 3 days, and, I am only planning on bringing in the leafy tropicals, and the plants that should not be outside when its below 60...the rest I am planning to leave out for another week or 2. I have been told and read, that most "cactus" can handle it, until it gets into the upper 30's at night, and that actually helps them know when to start "hibernating" for the winter..

    Bookmark   September 27, 2009 at 11:54AM
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> It going to be 58/40 for highs and lows ... I have been told and read, that most "cactus" can handle it

Yes, the temperature is about the same here, and mine are still outside (and will remain there for a while).

    Bookmark   September 27, 2009 at 12:09PM
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do you have any "tropicals", i.e. madagascar palms, crown of thorns, pachypodiums, adeniums, or things of that "realm" that you leave out when it gets this cold?
Its going back up to 70 by Thursday, so I hate to keep bringing them in and out, but am afraid of leaving the tropicals out when the high temps dont get out of the 50's...

    Bookmark   September 27, 2009 at 12:31PM
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No, not outside.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2009 at 2:45PM
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ok, now I understand..
I am going out to spray the tropicals with a soapy solution now, while its still 75 degrees, then rinse them off and bring them in..
I think the furnace will be going on for the first time this week!

    Bookmark   September 27, 2009 at 2:50PM
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